Ayrton, Hertha 1854 - 1923


Ayrton (1854-1923) was born Sarah Phoebe Marks. She was a British physicist and electrical engineer who made important contributions to the study of electric arcs and the physics of waves in water with obstacles and boundaries.

Her work on the properties of electric arcs led to her being the first woman elected to the Institution of Electrical Engineers. She was the first woman to read a research paper at a Royal Society meeting. Ayrton was also the first woman to receive the Society’s Hughes Medal, awarded for original discoveries relating to the generation, storage and use of energy.

Ayrton invented the Ayrton fan. This was a simple hand held device used to repel clouds of poison gas in WWI. Despite initial opposition and delay, once her invention was adopted by the British armed forces it saved many lives.